IRL: Phoenix: Panoz race report

Sharp takes fifth with fine-handling Panoz in 100th start at Phoenix AVONDALE, March 19, 2005 - In his 100th Indy Racing League IndyCar Series start and 91st consecutive race, Scott Sharp flew to fifth place in his ...

Sharp takes fifth with fine-handling Panoz in 100th start at Phoenix

AVONDALE, March 19, 2005 - In his 100th Indy Racing League IndyCar Series start and 91st consecutive race, Scott Sharp flew to fifth place in his #8 Delphi/Fernandez Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone Indy car in the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 Presented by Argent Mortgage on the Phoenix International Raceway mile oval today.

Starting ninth in the 22-car field, the veteran had a memorable race, securing his first top-five result since 2003. Feeling and racing more like a newcomer than a driver with so many laps under his belt, the ebullient Florida resident realized "we were one of the fastest cars on the track for a while today."

The 200-lap contest fell to Sam Hornish Jr. but Sharp ran with the lead pack all afternoon under unseasonably cool, cloudy conditions in the Valley of the Sun. Predicted rain never materialized. "It is all about the results," Sharp noted. "We had a good car and were second quick in warm-up and that was what the whole focus was for me. We're pleased with a top-five finish on a bull-ring like this."

Engineer John Ward called it "a pretty good weekend from beginning to end. We have been looking for a good one-mile oval setup and we are on our way with the Panoz. We're not perfect yet and we know we can make it a little better."

Darren Manning again had a good run with his #10 Team Target Panoz/Toyota and brought his car home in eighth place to secure fifth place points after two races. Manning had "a great Panoz car but we struggled with straight-line speed and that made it a bit more difficult. It was a fun, good clean race and we'll build on it." Teammate Scott Dixon finished 11th and said his #9 Team Target Panoz/Toyota "came around in the latter part of our long runs."

Sharp's teammate Kosuke Matsuura secured tenth place with the #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz/Honda and ran in the top group after his second stint. "It was a really difficult race, but even after 120 laps I was really competitive and the Panoz was so good." A problem with the right rear tire after his third pit stop meant a severe loss of grip. "I almost spun many times but I saved it. I think we improved a lot on the mile tracks."

The engineers at Elan Motorsports Technologies are preparing all eight Panoz entries for the Indy Racing League's first street course contest April 1-3, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Securing the right balance for the more physically demanding street circuit is a priority for the Panoz troops led by chief designer Simon Marshall. The Panoz chassis is the sole American designed and built Indy car and has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500 Mile races.

-emt-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Scott Sharp , Scott Dixon , Kosuke Matsuura , Sam Hornish Jr.